Field Guide for Regenerating Systems & Stories
Welcome to The Rescope Project’s Field Guide. It features a range of experiences from individuals, businesses and other organisations who are regenerating the systems and stories we live by, for life on Earth to flourish. These stories aim to show the many ways this regeneration is occurring, inspire more of us to make changes to this end, and ground our thought leadership in practice.
Doing good business while customers buy less
It's a widely accepted article of faith in the business world that manufacturing for disposability is necessary for competitiveness if not survival. Increasing quality above a basic threshold for adequate customer satisfaction means increased costs. And if products last too long, then a key driver of consumption is suppressed and revenue suffers. A company risks pricing itself out of the market if it doesn't play along, even if this strategy doesn't sit well personally with those involved.
As customers, we're so acclimatised to the consequences of this in terms of product life that we often accept this as just an inevitable part of living in the modern world. The continuation of this belief suits most business operators just fine.
It turns out that this isn’t a matter of practical or economic necessity, but a particular cultural story that has gained ascendancy. We know this because there are still businesses out there that are entirely successful in conventional terms, but that operate according to very different logics.
A leading light here is Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company. Decades ago, founder Yvon Choinard decided to follow a path in which environmental and social responsibility was treated as the foundation for sound business practice, not an add-on.
An updated and revised edition of Chouinard's book about this experience, Let My People Go Surfing, has just been released. In the book, he discusses some of the latest -and from a conventional perspective, counter-intuitive-additions to the company's strategy for business success: asking customers to buy less, and helping them do this by encouraging them to repair worn out clothing and equipment.
The 5-year-old Patagonia winter wetsuit of Rescope Project director Josh Floyd, fully repaired. Anywhere else, it would likely be in landfill by now.
Pic: Josh Floyd.
This isn't just rhetoric: Patagonia actually provides its own high-quality repair service. Rescope Project director Josh Floyd has long been impressed by Patagonia's ethos, and recently had first-hand experience of what this means in practice.
The photo right is his five-year-old Patagonia winter wetsuit. By the end of the winter surf season just gone, a number of the seams had developed significant leaks, and he assumed that it had finally reached the end of its life. Five years is a very good innings for a wetsuit anyway these days, and he reasoned that replacing it after that long was simply the price to pay for staying warm in Victoria's cold winter waters.
Paul Webb at Patagonia in Torquay thought otherwise. Thanks to the efforts of him and his team, the wetsuit is pretty much as good as new, and will likely provide a number of further seasons' use, with scope for further repair down the track if needed.
The photo shows the lengths that Patagonia go to in order to extend the life of the gear they sell. They have actually cut out a section of the material around one of the damaged seams and sewn in a replacement piece. Anywhere else, a wetsuit in that condition would likely be in landfill-with a replacement carrying significant resource and environmental impacts.
Everyone wins here: delighted customers, protected environments and a company whose reputation ensures loyal support. We think this is a story that just makes sense on all fronts.
Disclaimer: Patagonia didn't have any input, financial or otherwise, into our decision to publish this story.